Meditation is a cornerstone of Buddhist practice.
If there is one piece of advice that you take from this book it’s that you should meditate.
We often tend to think we don’t have time to devote to meditation, but most of us do. In our culture, we tend to spend a great deal of time just….passing time, engaging in activities that are just designed to fill our time in a really meaningless way. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but it means that we do indeed have time to meditate.
Meditation is not what I would call fun or exciting—it can be hard to force ourselves to sit down and meditate sometimes. But, it is important and there are a number of benefits to meditating regularly.
Meditation helps prepare our minds for contemplating spiritual truths. It is what truly opens the door to unleashing our Buddha nature. When we meditate, the delusion that stops you from recognizing our Buddha nature is, at least temporarily, cleared away. When we meditate, we pay attention to what’s really going on. And if we can do that, then we can pay attention to what you really are. We can pay attention to what is really within. That is the message of Buddhism. The truth is within us and it has been all along. What we really are is one with everything. When we are meditating, the goal is to stop focusing on trying to feel independent from everything else.
That sense of independence is false and inherently unhelpful.
Meditation also has health benefits. It has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, to improve heart problems, and to help improve focus and memory. The time we spend meditating will improve the rest of the day, even if we don’t unleash our Buddha nature. But it’s that feeling of oneness and interconnectedness that makes meditation a truly important practice.
This is how I meditate at home. I put a pillow on the floor and sit on it. I face a blank wall. Some people like to face a burning candle or an image of the Buddha or a Bodhisattva instead. I sit cross-legged and I just look at the wall. I sit with my back as straight as possible and I just try to clear my mind.
We have thoughts and distractions constantly in our minds. When we meditate, it clears out the junk that is in our deluded minds so that the Buddha nature that is beneath all of that can shine through. It’s there already, it just has delusions that are covering it up. If we can get those delusions to go away for a bit, we will be aware of oneness. It is our true nature, we just have delusions in the way, kind of like a dirty dish. We have to wash those delusions away. Buddhist practice is a way to do that.
Probably not the only way, but it’s the best way for me.
Anyway, I sit and meditate for 20 minutes in the morning and 15 at night before bed. It’s part of my daily routine. In my experience that’s the only way to do it. If I don’t meditate in the morning, right after my shower, then I don’t meditate at all. Routine is critical because it’s easy for us to find reasons not to meditate. Our lives are very busy and there are constantly things we could be doing.
We have things to do that we can use as an excuse. Some people say that the modern world isn’t conducive to meditation.
I don’t agree with that—there have always been distractions.
We don’t meditate because it’s fun or easy. It isn’t. We do it because it helps us improve ourselves.
It’s kind of like exercising for the mind instead of for the body.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise
photo: flickr/Ryan Oelke